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Countryside projects


We are able to deliver some specific projects with funding help from external organisations. This allows us to concentrate our efforts on particular areas and deliver something really special.

Tees Railway Path improvements

Thanks to funding secured through Teesdale AAP, we undertook a programme of work to update drainage on the Tees Railway Path. 2012 saw an exceedingly high level of rainfall which tested the capacity of the land as well as our drainage systems.

The Tees railway and all its associated infrastructure was built in 1868, after nearly 150 years there were areas which needed upgrading to maintain effectiveness. Using the £10, 000 grant, drainage work is now complete. Resurfacing of poor quality stretches of the route has also taken place.

Running alongside this project, we have taken the opportunity to carry out specific habitat management tasks along the line to maintain and enhance the biodiversity of the route. This habitat work will be carried out through a number of practical volunteer sessions.

Living Ponds

In February 2012, Durham Biodiversity Partnership received £119,841 from SITA Trust to carry out a two year project of pond restoration across Durham, Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland. This is  the SITA Trust: Living Ponds project.

Over 75% of ponds that existed at the start of the 20th century have been lost, and 80% of remaining ponds are in poor condition. New ponds will be created and existing ponds will be improved by clearing vegetation, removing silt and creating areas of open water. This will provide improved habitats for Biodiversity Action Plan species including great crested newts, water voles and otters. As one of the project partners, we:

  • have dug new ponds along the Lanchester Valley Railway Path at Malton and Baxter Wood
  • have dug two new ponds at Chapmans Well Local Nature Reserve 
  • have created wetland scrapes at Chester Moor Local Nature Reserve
  • have created new ponds at Ferryhill Carrs Local Nature Reserve
  • have created new ponds at Daisy Hill Local Nature Reserve and along the Hurworth Burn and Hart-Haswell Railway Paths

Grassland improvement at Ferryhill Carrs Local Nature Reserve

We received £22,739 from the Sita Trust to improve the grasslands at Ferryhill Carrs Local Nature Reserve. The SITA Trust: Ferryhill Carrs Enhancement project has enabled more sensitive management of the grasslands, helping to create a more diverse habitat for plants and animals.

Contractors removed scrub and installed new fencelines to create compartments allowing conservation grazing by highland cattle and ponies in selected areas of the site. This traditional method of managing grasslands is much more sensitive than using mechanical mowers and flails. Without positive management such as this, the site is in danger of drying out and losing its special qualities. 

During summer 2012, horses grazed the special waxcap (fungi) grassland and highland cattle are currently munching away in the larger compartment to improve the wildflower meadow. You still have access to this part of the reserve, but please keep your dog under close control.

Volunteers and members of the local community have also helped by removing scrub which allows the wildflowers to grow without competition.

We've seen many different bird species this year including water rail, gadwall, teal, juvenile herons, sedge warbler, reed warbler and sand martin.

Pow Hill Bog

We joined together with the Heart of Durham project to protect the flora and fauna within Pow Hill bog. As this area is designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) this was a very positive move to help protect such a unique habitat. The main threat to this area is trampling by people and dogs which is destroying some of the rare and specialised bog plants such as bog asphodel, cotton grass, marsh violet, Grass of Parnassus and lesser skullcap.

Thanks to funding from the Durham Wildlife Trust: Heart of Durham project, a new fence-line has been installed enclosing the bog. The fence-line will prevent public access to the bog itself. However it is possible to watch the bogs' development over the coming years from the path.

Resurfacing the Waskerley Way

During summer 2012, we undertook a major resurfacing project on a section of the Waskerley Way, an old railway line between Consett and Stanhope. Our aim on the 2.5 mile section between Whitehall picnic area and Burn Hill was to provide a high quality surface which is less liable to the effects of wet weather and therefore available throughout the year for all users. The new surface is much more accessible for wheelchair users and people with pushchairs.

During the project we took the opportunity to realign a sharp corner at Burn Hill, making it safer and giving us the ability to preserve an area of special habitat for butterflies and adders.

We've had some great feedback, including this:

The new surface is a fantastic asset to an already good facility. As a keen cyclist, I use this track often and feel this work is money well spent. I have spoken to many other cyclists on this track from all over Britain and abroad, all extol the virtues of this line, its beauty and its condition. 

Please stay on the track where possible. If you do find yourself exploring the Waskerley Way, please take care where you stand and to not disturb animals when taking photographs. The habitats in this area are very sensitive and contain many protected species.

Hedgerow planting at Crowtrees Local Nature Reserve

As part of the Jubilee Woods project, run by the Woodland Trust, Crowtrees Heritage Group were successful in gaining two 'wild harvest' planting packs. This has meant 525 saplings have been planted including hazel, blackthorn, crab apple, elder and dog rose plus a royal oak.

With the assistance of Crowtrees Heritage Group and Foundation UK, the saplings were planted to gap up boundary hedges on the Crowtrees nature reserve. 

Find out more about the Woodland Trust tree planting challenge and whether or not your group could apply for a planting pack.

Wanister Bog

Wanister Bog, at Waldridge Fell, is also a SSSI. It has been drying out over recent years and was in danger of losing its special plants. A joint project was undertaken by the Countryside Service and the Council's Ecology team to restore the bog to its former glory. 

With funding of £19,050 from CDENT we have installed a bund and sluice to retain water and make the area boggy once again. We have also created some wetland scrapes. Afterwards our countryside volunteers helped to install fencing around the bog and build a corral for the cattle.

The bog is now being grazed by highland cattle as part of a conservation grazing programme. The combination of their heavy weight and constant eating breaks up the thick layer of grass meaning the area will get wetter. The bare earth which is exposed will allow wildflowers to seed. This docile breed of cattle grazes the bog over winter. The public still has access to the site, but remember to keep your dog under close control.

This project received a commendation in the Natural Environment category of the County Durham Partnership: Environment Awards.

We continue to monitor and evaluate the vegetation within the bog and already results are being observed.

Cong Burn project

Cong Burn Wood is an ancient woodland adjacent to Pelton Fell. The Countryside Service, along with the Chester-le-Street Angling Club and Local Multi-Agency Problem Solving Group developed an environmental improvement project with £28,000 funding from CDENT.

Improvements have included access improvements for pedestrians and vehicles, resurfacing of a footpath, improving a woodland glade and flower-rich meadow, installing an otter holt, tree thinning to assist in the development of a reed bed, rhododendron removal and replanting with oak and hazel, removing invasive Himalayan balsam and building bird boxes.

Chester-le-Street Angling Club, with support from the Environment Agency, created a bio-filtering reed bed system to address the effects of iron effluent from old mine workings. This iron waste-water will be treated via the reed bed before entering into the Cong Burn. This will ultimately improve the water quality for fish, amphibians and other wildlife.

Defibrillators

Defibrillators are now located at Hardwick Park and in our ranger support vehicle. If someone has a cardiac arrest these machines can save their life, and the quicker they are used the greater the chance of survival. 

The British Heart Foundation knows how important it is to get defibrillators out into the community. They gave us a grant towards the machines and provided staff training. The Friends of Hardwick and Durham Voluntary Countryside Ranger Service (DVCRS) contributed the remainder of the costs.

Chester Moor bird hide

Back in November 2013, as part of the Your Money Your Views event, Durham Voluntary Countryside Ranger Service submitted an application to buy materials to construct a bird hide and provide some information at Chester Moor nature reserve. Unfortunately, the project was not successful on the day but the group continued to work with Chester le Street AAP to secure £2000 funding for this project.

The hide will be constructed during July 2014 and will overlook the new wetlands, include identification sheets to assist visitors with their ID skills and a chalk board where we hope people will note their sightings to help build information on what species use the site.

Hardwick's Yurt

Hardwick Park is getting a yurt! This isn't your typical Mongolian yurt but one which will provide us with much needed additional space to run education sessions and birthday parties. Despite looking slightly different our yurt, made and constructed by Wildwood Cumbria, is still a temporary structure made up of a wooden floor, lattice side wall and wooden rafters. The yurt will also be available for hire for other uses such as meetings and workshops. If you have an idea of how the space may be used, please get in touch.

Contact us
Countryside Service
03000 264 589
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